A long corridor covered with a soft red carpet leads to the metallic black door from the last floor of the respectable gentleman Brandon Hale’s hotel. A pleasant smell, where are often some forbidden toxins, makes you feel sorry for leaving this luxurious place and its pleasures. But until you reached the last door you needed to pass other two doors: one from Nina Hale’s room and the other from Brandon’s room. Of course, the last one didn’t really spend his time in his luxurious bedroom, but in the hall from the basement where was the casino.
Nina found a huge pleasure in walking barefooted on the soft carpet and she never took the elevator. So she was moving up and down between the fifteen floors with her shoes in her hands, most of the times, finding in this weird habit a way to relax.
She was saluting with her wide smile every customer she bumped into, and her optimism was contagious. Yes, she was the favorite child, and she got in most of the times what she wanted from her father, especially when she was handling the important clients of the hotel. So, practically, this is what miss Nina was doing, she was walking her father’s favorite clients to their rooms, offered them a wide smile and hypnotized them with her charm. And for this she received every week a pretty amount of money in her account.
She looked good, anyway, without too much effort, because of the contagious energy she had. She was more like Brandon, inheriting his brown hair and eyes, but also his height, a thing that made him even more proud of his daughter.
Even if from the outside things seemed differently, Brandon couldn’t say that he loved his other daughter, Emelia Isabelle, the same way. Maybe it was the fact that she didn’t look like him at all, maybe every time he looked at her she reminded him of Olivia, his beloved wife who died of cancer five years ago, at the same time when their business started glowing. At that particular moment, the two daughters but Brandon himself too learned an extremely important thing, and that was that even all the money in the world couldn’t save a life when illness touches all that you love most in the world.
After Olivia’s death, Brandon renamed the Hale Hotel in O’Hale, in the memory of his wife, and also at the same time he turned the underground parking into a casino, which became soon famous in Las Vegas for the exorbitant amount of money played at the roulette and poker, but also for blackjack and erotic dances which took place behind closed doors, and only for influent and rich people.
Countless acquaintances, but also Brandonțs friends from the police let him free way to make all sorts of deals and illegal stuff without making too hard efforts, especially when he was pulling out from his pockets large amounts of money to close the eyes of the people who came to check his hotel regularly. Even his friends from the press helped him maintain his image every day, attracting the elite clientele.
So, behind this history and countless dirty secrets, certainly behind the black door from the end of the corridor with the red carpet, Isabelle, as she liked to be called, was applying a red lipstick on her lips, sitting in front of the white make-up table. She looks bored at the expensive make-up lying in front of her, rises an eyebrow, bites her lip, admiring one more time her perfect make-up, and she stands up from the chair, heading to the dressing wearing only black underwear.
“Black, just like my soul, for the top”, she whispers grabbing a low-cut shirt, which let her bra to be seen.
She grabs a red pair of shoes and a skirt just as red and short, and she puts them on looking one more time in the mirror.
“And red for my heart”, she continues with a serious facial expression.
She ties her long and black hair at the back and she puts on a red and long wig. She looks again in the mirror, and if someone would have seen her he would have said that she admired herself too much, but her green eyes are cold, and she is the only one who really knows how tired she is to please her father.
With a last sigh she pulls her skirt higher, beyond decency and good taste, then she grabs her purse with all the equipment she needed for her so-called job, and she leaves the room, heading to the elevator.
She never recognizes herself when she sees her so changed, so she prefers to close her eyes along with the elevator’s doors which start closing when the annoying bell announces.
A manly hand stops them, and Isabelle opens panicked her eyes when she realizes that the elevator didn’t leave. Her face remains the same when she sees in the mirror no one else but Aide Johnson, her future husband, who is standing now behind her, touching her shoulders.
“Are you cold?” he asks her feeling her skin under his palms.
“A little”, she says with moderate and controlled voice.
“Just try not to be when you get there. You know what you have to do.”
“I know”, she says without even moving a muscle of her body.
When the doors close, the music starts loud, the colored lights invade the elevator, and Aiden kissed her neck and disappears in the crowd which is dancing carelessly among the alcohol and drugs vapors from the casino. Isabelle remains there after his leaving, only now she relaxes her body and she swallows her lump from the throat she had all along when Aiden touched her shoulders.
She turns around and steps outside from the elevator with a wide and white smile, saluting discretely the women approaching her and avoiding as much as possibly any masculine presence. Tonight she is handling the roulette, so she arranges her shirt, checks her sleeves, and then she heads to her place, where she welcomes seriously every player from the table.
Among the is sitting Aiden too, who stares at her in a disturbing way, in a strange way, out of the blue. Isabelle knows instantly that something is not right about his look and, without controlling, she gulps. This gesture seems to annoy her fiancée, who closes his fist on the table, and the he moves his eyes on the glass of cognac and swallows it in a moment.
“Place your bets, please”, says Isabelle sitting near the roulette.
Nina passes and fills their glasses, but she is not dresses that indecent as her sister. She rolls around laughing, holding bottles of expensive drinks, moving in the end at the poker table, not to play but to support her favorite.
At Isabelle’s table are only serious people, all wearing suits, whom the alcohol’s flavor made to unbutton the shirts. Among the two elderly men, Aiden and another young guy, who was smoking marijuana, are also two women between thirty and forty years old, both wearing a lot of expensive jewelry. They are mobs wives bored to support their husbands at poker, where Brandon is playing as well, they came to try their luck at the roulette. They had won two times, but then they started losing, betting more and more money and trying all the strategies they knew.
After each one from the table had won at least one time, when the was spinning, Isabelle gently lifts her knee on the table, turning at first a couple of looks, and then all of them to her underwear made of lace, which she lets on sight on purpose, while she touches her leg, and then discreetly the table.
“Twenty four, black”, she says with hoarsely voice.
The result brings a fade smile on Aiden’s face, and the evening goes on in the same manner, until he remains with the two women at the table. Soon, the winning is in his hands, but they are not disturbed by the lost money, which they didn’t own in the first place, and they start walking to the bar, tripping and laughing, holding each other in the smoke.
Brandon throws his daughter a pleased look from the poker table where he was standing with two men, and then to Aiden, and Isabelle rushes to get to the elevator, because her job was done. She sees Aiden moving to the poker table to watch her father’s game, so she pushes the button to the twelve floor, she buttons her shirt and pulls down her skirt, embarrassed, when the doors close. She takes off the shoes that started to tighten her feet and heads to her room.
She turns on the white light and runs to the wide windows from where she could see the whole city. She presses the button and lowers the shutters, then she puts her wig in the drawer, the shoes in their place, the clothes that were smelling of smoke she throws in the washing machine, and she enters the big blue bathroom, where she takes off her ugly make-up and becomes herself again. She walks insecurely in the shower, leaves the warm water to flow over her, while the radio starts, and the lights change along with the rhythm of the music.
The foam flows on her fragile body, and when her hands touch her ribs she moans of pain. There were a couple of bruises on her body, and she grinds her teeth when she hears the room’s door slamming.
“My love, I’m waiting for you in the room”, says Aiden opening the bathroom’s door.
“I’ll be right there”, she answers turning off the water.
She wipes her hair and puts a towel around it, and then she puts on the robe and steps out to find Aiden sitting on the bed with his shirt unbuttoned. The jacket and the tie are thrown in a corner, and she has no idea what to expect from him anymore.
“Come closer”, he says to her standing up and dropping the shirt, untying the belt which valued more than two pieces of furniture from that room.
She walks towards him, holding tight to her robe, while he throws the pants on the bed. He puts his arms around her and pulls her robe, and then he pushes her gently, leaving the towel covering her hair to fall on the carpet.
Now he is on top of her, touching her naked body with his, kissing her breasts, then the neck, so he can reach her soft lips. His hands are touching her body, at first gently, but then he starts being brutal until she moans of pain. Aiden bites her lip strongly, until there appear some tears on her cheeks, and then he grabs the belt and puts it on her neck, pushing it hardly, keeping her immobilized on the bed, under the weight of his body.
“Where is you engagement ring?!” he yells with anger in his eyes.
She tries to speak but she feels like she is chocking, her face turns blue, and there are only a few seconds that separate her from fainting. Aiden loosens the belt and catches her hair under his palms, holding now her head and making her skin stretch on her face.
“I asked you something!”
“It’s in the drawer!” she says among tears.
He gets up angrily, strongly pulls the drawer and throws it away, leaving all the objects to scatter on the floor. He lifts the box with the ring from the carpet, takes it out and rushes back on her in the bed, just when she manages to crawl back.
“You don’t want people to know that you’re engaged to me? Tell me, cunt! Is that what you’re trying to do? This is why you left it in the room? Tell me!” he yells squeezing it and pushing it into her face.
“I forgot it!” she says desperately, realizing what that look from the roulette was about.
“I should make you swallow it! Make you eat it, do you hear me?! Put it on your finger right now!” he screams and stands up throwing it in her.
She grabs it with her trembling hands and puts it on just in time, before he snaps again. But, as if it wasn’t enough, he starts again, making her remain stoned in the corner of the bed.
“Why the hell didn’t I win the sixth game? I was supposed to win! Are you an idiot? You only have one job to do!”
“Something went wrong! The magnet didn’t work, I don’t know! Then the machine started working properly!” she says holding back her tears.
Aiden rushes to her purse and throws it into the wall. Wires and black pieces start falling from it, pieces from a machine they used to control the roulette to their favor.
“Now it’s solved! It didn’t work? Now it’s not working at all! Where is that damned shirt of yours?”
Before she could answer, Aiden starts scattering through the clothes in the wardrobe, throwing them all over the place, shouting nonsense, so he can finally hear her yelling too but to cover his voice.
“It’s in the laundry basket!”
He turns at her with a demonic look on his face, but then, extremely calm, he goes and scatters the laundry on the floor, and thorns the shirt into pieces in his attempt to pull the magnets that were under the buttons.
“You were going to wash it like this? I don’t have any expectation from you now… You are a lost cause!”
“I didn’t realize!” she shouts again from the corner of the bed, without moving an inch.
He throws away the magnets and heads towards her, calmly, amazing her with his shifting state, making her crazy and tormenting her. He grabs her hand and squeezes the finger with the ring on it so hard that makes her bend of pain, and then he leaves her to fall from the bed, at his feet, and bends over her, lifting her up with a movement of his hand around her neck.
“And you’d better not yell at me again because I’m going to cut off your tongue, do you hear me?” he says and enters the dressing, leaving her to fall on the carpet again.
She coughs and trembles, then she struggles to lift herself up on her elbows, but she can’t move because of the shock and the pain. He steps out wearing another suit, throws her a satisfied look, and then he slams the door on his way out.
Isabelle remains there a good period of time, with dried tears on her cheeks, so she could stand up in the end with the same serious face, neutral, to walk in front of the mirror, where she grabs the hairdryer and starts drying her hair as if nothing had happened. She gathers the hair puller from her head from the floor, puts the robe on, lifts her hair in a ponytail and squeezes her fist. Her finger hurts, but it’s an insignificant pain comparing to the bruises she had all over her body.
She opens the drawer and grabs a notebook, which she opens and starts drawing like a robot. This time she draws a hummingbird, in less than three minutes, and her talent can be seen all over the notebook’s pages. She finds refugee in this hobby, and she is really good at drawing. She is proud of her talent, and she looks over the pages one more time before she puts it away in the drawer.
She puts a pair of slippers in her feet, pours a glass of white wine, runs to her little drawer from the bathroom where, among the lotions and oils, she had hidden a packet of cigarettes, which she takes with her when she steps out on the long balcony with a view of the city.
She knows too well that she is not going to see Aiden until sunrise, when he is going to come again drunk and drugged, and she would have to pretend asleep so she wouldn’t provoke him in any way. She lights a cigarette and sips from the wine, looking with teary eyes at Las Vegas’s lights, from the last floor of the well-known Hotel O’Hale, from where she seemed another black spot in the light of the white bulbs.